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Curator's Corner / Tracks

Darlington Ready to Rock Throwback Weekend

NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway once again set to honor NASCAR’s history and heritage at the Southern 500.

One of the best events of any NASCAR season is the annual Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway, which this year features all three of the sanctioning body’s national series competing at “The Track Too Tough to Tame” on Sept. 5-6.

Opened in 1950, Darlington was the first fully paved NASCAR track that was longer than one mile in length. And until Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, the biggest race on the NASCAR schedule was the Southern 500, which took place every Labor Day at Darlington.

The Southern 500 was the race every driver wanted to win, because it carried the most prestige and the biggest payday. The purse for the inaugural Southern 500 in 1950 was $25,325—rich money in those days. By comparison, the next highest purse that entire season was $6,200 for the event on the old Daytona Beach & Road Course. So, yes, winning at Darlington was a huge deal.

Although almost everything has changed in NASCAR over the last 70 years, Darlington remains refreshingly old school, the perfect place to honor the sport’s history and heritage. So every year since 2015, Darlington has hosted NASCAR’s official Throwback Weekend, where racers run old-school paint schemes honoring the legends of the sport, and crews don vintage uniforms.

It’s colorful, it’s interesting and most of all, it’s fun. And especially now, we can all use more fun. Here are 10 of our favorite Darlington throwback schemes, two from each of the past five seasons.

Here are 10 of our favorite Darlington Throwback schemes, two from each of the past five seasons:

The career of South Carolina native David Pearson was celebrated in the first Darlington Throwback weekend. Photo courtesy of Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images.

2015, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Roush Fenway Racing trimmed out the Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the colors that Hall of Famer David Pearson (2011) carried on his Holman-Moody Racing entry when he won back-to-back premier series championships in 1968 and ’69. Pearson scored 27 of his career 105 race wins during those two seasons.

Petty Blue and STP Day-Glo Red was the definitive 1970s Richard Petty color combination. Photo courtesy of Matt Sullivan/Getty Images.

2015, Aric Almirola

Hall of Famer Richard Petty (2010) set a record by winning seven premier series championships, the last three of which came carrying STP sponsorship, so when it came time for the first Darlington Throwback Weekend, it was a natural for Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola to do a vintage 1970s Petty paint scheme.

To match their boss’ throwback paint scheme, the Stewart-Haas Racing crew sported vintage 1970s Coca-Cola uniforms. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images.

2016, Tony Stewart

There’s no question that Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (2020) goes all-in on everything he does. So when he wanted to salute one of his racing heroes, fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (2011), Stewart made sure his crew was decked out in the same brightly colored uniforms that Allison’s crew would have had in the early 1970s.

Buddy Baker’s famed Gray Ghost was the inspiration for Jeff Gordon’s Darlington ride. Photo courtesy of Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images.

2016, Jeff Gordon

Fellow Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2021) was sidelined by a concussion, so Jeff Gordon (2019) filled in behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for eight races. At Darlington, Gordon’s paint scheme was the same as Buddy Baker’s (2020) from 1980, when Baker won the fastest Daytona 500 ever run.

In 1999, car owner Robert Yates and driver Dale Jarrett won a championship carrying Ford Credit colors. Photo courtesy of Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images.

2017, Danica Patrick

With Hall of Famer Robert Yates (2018) in the final stages of his battle with cancer, Danica Patrick’s Ford carried the colors Dale Jarrett (2014) campaigned in 1999, when he drove a Robert Yates Racing Ford to a premier series championship. Patrick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford earned best-in-show honors for its paint scheme.

For the Darlington race, Team Penske re-introduced one of its most popular looks. Photo courtesy of Sarah Crabill/Getty Images.

2017, Brad Keselowski

If ever there was a no-brainer choice for a classic throwback design, it was Team Penske and its Hall of Fame owner Roger Penske (2019) bringing back the iconic black-and-gold Miller Genuine Draft theme that Rusty Wallace (2013) enjoyed so much success with when he drove for Penske in the 1990s.

Austin Dillon’s Chevrolet modeled Richard Childress Racing’s first special paint scheme. Photo courtesy of Sarah Crabill/Getty Images.

2018, Austin Dillon

In 1995, Hall of Famers Richard Childress (2017) and Dale Earnhardt (2010) launched the NASCAR special paint scheme craze with a silver Chevrolet Monte Carlo to help Winston celebrate its 25th anniversary as the title sponsor of the premier series. Which made Darlington Throwback Weekend a perfect place to bring the silver colors back.

No one won the Southern 500 more often than Jeff Gordon, so it made sense to bring his first paint scheme back at the historic track. Photo courtesy of Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images.

2018, William Byron

Best in show honors for Darlington’s 2018 Throwback Weekend went to Hendrick Motorsports and driver William Byron. For the Southern 500, Byron’s No. 24 Camaro carried the rainbow paint scheme popularized by Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (2019), who set records with six Southern 500 race victories, including four in a row.

Paul Menard (car No. 21) wheeled the Wood Brothers Racing Ford in the Southern 500. Photo courtesy of Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images.

2019, Paul Menard

Wood Brothers Racing honored the memory of company founder and Hall of Famer Glen Wood (2012) with a vintage look similar to what Wood himself drove in 1957, when he won four races and finished third in the year-end points standings in the NASCAR Convertible Division. This time around, it was Paul Menard driving the team’s black-over-red Ford.

The candy logos on Kyle Busch’s Toyota dated back to 1990. Photo courtesy of Sean Gardner/Getty Images.

2019, Kyle Busch

Among the four Toyotas fielded at Darlington by Hall of Fame team owner Joe Gibbs (2020) was the No. 18 Camry of driver Kyle Busch. Sponsored by Snickers, Busch’s retro design mimicked the candy bar’s look from 1990. Although Busch didn’t win, it was still a great night for Joe Gibbs Racing, with Busch finishing third, two spots behind his teammate and race winner Erik Jones.

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Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.